Thursday, April 30, 2009

Casual Listening - Bob Dylan, The Sixteen, Ben Folds Presents University A Capella!

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

May 1, 2009

Just announced: Steve Reich won the Pulitzer Prize for Music with his “Double Sextet.” Casual Listening was there for the concert performance of this work – you can find the review here.

! Bob Dylan – Together Through Life (rock)

Dylan has earned his blues. After nearly 50 years of music-making, he plays the music not merely in imitation of old forms, but as a way to channel the depth of his own heartache and hard living. A song like “My Wife’s Hometown” is based on Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” but is arguably better than the original. I don’t say this lightly. Accordion is on nearly every track, sounding like a withered version of Dylan’s trademark harmonica. Devastating.

Listen to Bob Dylan “My Wife’s Hometown

* The Sixteen – Padre Pio Prayer (classical)

Three composers using sacred choral music to bridge the 15th century and the 21st. James MacMillan, Roxanna Panufnik, and Will Todd each set the text of a classic prayer for vocal ensemble. The result is Renaissance motets shot through with contemporary harmonies, the beauty of faith marbled with the dissonance of doubt. The Sixteen does a masterful job of carrying out some incredibly demanding material. The album is filled out with additional compositions by the three composers.

Listen to The Sixteen do Will Todd’s version of “Stay With Me (Padre Pio Prayer)

* Ben Folds Presents: University A Capella!

The story of this album is as interesting as the album itself. The nations’ best collegiate a capella groups arrange and perform the music of the piano-rock popster. The match works brilliantly, withdeep harmonic arrangements bringing out layers in Ben Folds’ songs that you never realized were there. Ultimately, the sunny disposition of both the songwriter and the performers reinforce each other nicely.

Listen to The Sacramento State Jazz Singers’ version of “Selfless, Cold, & Composed

Los Straitjackets – The Further Adventures of Los Straitjackets (rock)

Summer’s just around the corner, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better purveyor of surf rock than Los Straitjackets. Instrumental rockers with reverb-heavy guitars and flashy drumming. Grab your board (or at least a beach towel) and crank this.

Listen to Los Straitjackets “Blowout

Louisiana Red – Back to the Black Bayou (blues)

Louisiana Red was a lesser-known contemporary of the great 1950’s Chicago bluesmen. His sound is cut from that classic mold – stoptime rhythms, overdriven harmonica, and a singer who knows how to wail. Is there anything more pitiful (and more worthy of a blues song) than being too poor to die?

Listen to Louisiana Red “Too Poor to Die

Kermit Ruffins – Livin’ a Tremé Life (jazz)

Ruffins successfully crosses Louis Armstrong-era New Orleans jazz with the second line funk of the Mardi Gras brass bands.

Listen to Kermit Ruffins “I Ate Up The Apple Tree

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

Check out the blog at http://casuallistening.blogspot.com . To subscribe or unsubscribe, or just to say hi, send an e-mail to jeffpinzino@gmail.com.

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